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Viewing the 'Spending' Category

Broken Windshield

May 25th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

During my husband's travels to school on Sunday, the windshield on his truck was hit by a rock. It eventually resulted in a crack as the trip progressed.

We won't claim this on our insurance as we have a $1000 deductible. I did start the process through USAA who contracts with Safelite for repairs which is where I saw that the windshield would cost $300. I was close to scheduling it, but decided to see if Safelite offered coupons or discounts. Instead I found a local shop that gave an online quote of $197! That is a huge savings.

I'm calling to today to see if we can get our vehicle in on Saturday while he is home, otherwise it will need to wait.

Of course, I'm not thrilled about paying for a windshield, but this is a reason to have savings! And it does pay to shop around when needing repairs. Smile

Bummer, No Kitchenette

May 21st, 2017 at 09:44 pm

My husband has found out his room while he is away for three months of training is a fairly basic hotel room. It doesn't have the stove and kitchen supplies we were expecting. It does have a microwave and a very small dorm refrigerator.

The good news he does get 'free' breakfast everyday. I hope it is somewhat decent as some of those breakfasts can get old after awhile. There may be a manager's reception/weekly social at least one night a week.

He will be back home for Memorial Day weekend, so we might have to figure out some options for food he can buy and eat from the commissary without eating out for every meal.

He is getting per diem to cover meals. Originally we were told it was $69 a day, but it is 75% of that because of the length of the training. That works out to $51.75 for each day. For thirty days, that is $1,552. I think the man can eat decently for that, even with some eating out.

The truth is I would love to keep as much of that money as possible. Even half or 2/3rds of that amount seems possible. I guess we will know more as it all plays out.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part Two

May 9th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

There is a lot to discuss when sharing the nitty gritty of college costs. I expect to break my posts down about this over several days. I even need to check with my daughter on how many credits she took each semester.

First here is a screen shot of the annual expenses for a full time undergraduate student taking 30 hours from the 2015-2016 Common Data Set at the school she is attending.



Living on campus is required at this school the freshman year if the student is under 19.

She is an out of state resident. She did receive a renewable four year scholarship of $14,000 per year. That is equal to $56,000. She also received an art scholarship her freshman year equal to $4500. And because she is an Honors student, she receives $500 per year towards books. Because the way the billing is, the Honors scholarship is really like any other scholarship and reduces tuition costs.

I do want to say that even I see areas where costs could be reduced. But we all make choices for our spending that are not about dollars and cents. I'm not going to go into justifying the decision. We are simply grateful that we have had the ability to pay the costs so far without taking out student loans.

In my next post I will try to break down actual costs for freshman year.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part One

May 8th, 2017 at 05:19 pm

My daughter applied for her Post 911 GI Bill education benefits while she was home on spring break. Her certificate of eligibility letter arrived in the mail this weekend. We were expecting it to say 18 months of eligibility as that is what my husband transferred to her and we have documentation of. Instead it said 12 months 6 days.

My husband called the VA today and and it turns out that by law they are required to count educational benefits he already received and used for his bachelor's degree against the Post 911 GI Bill. He used 24 months of a 48 month benefit. He has 24 months and 11 days left. We are splitting the benefit equally between our girls, which means 12 months and 6 days (likely five for our younger daughter).

While this is a surprise and not what we planned I am okay with this. It make sense that the government would not give soldiers educational benefits totaling more than the time one degree would take to complete. My husband did get his bachelor's degree (it was an accelerated program and he had a lot of transferred credits that counted) paid in full. We did benefit from that. He wouldn't have well paying officer's job he has now without a college degree.

The original plan was that 18 months of benefits would have been worth at least four semesters plus housing for our oldest daughter. Each semester is considered 4 months. I hadn't figured out how the two extra months would have worked out, but now I don't really need to.

The current plan is to make use of 8 months worth of benefits for her Junior year, which starts this fall. This will cover the tuition and fees above her scholarship, even at the non resident rate (because of the Yellow Ribbon program). These benefits will provide a housing allowance, but will not cover the full cost of her room and board, and $1000 towards books.

The next question is what to do with the final 4 months of benefits set aside for her. We expect she may need to go an additional semester after the senior year (and some summer classes in between) since she is a double major. Because the scholarship ends after four years, the full out of state tuition will be billed for all credits she takes. I do think it is a full 15+ credit hours the way she has it mapped out right now. It may make sense to save that final four months of benefits for that final semester, since it will be the most costly. The two senior semesters are at least reduced by the scholarship.

Our oldest daughter's senior year is the same year our youngest daughter will be a freshman in college. It is possible, but very slim, we could be eligible for some aid. As always the government would be more than happy to offer us a loan! Smile We also don't know at this point which college our younger daughter will attend, or know the scholarships she may receive.

We can adjust the number of months of benefits we transfer to our daughter's also. So if it seems our younger daughter will have lower costs, we could move some of the benefits to the older daughter. I expect we will know a lot more by the end of the year or early next year.

It is a little overwhelming to look at my older daughter's costs coming up and only see about $8000 sitting in her education funds!

I guess I should add that we aren't against taking a loan out at some point. Maybe for one of her senior semesters? While we support her getting two degrees, it doesn't mean we need to pay for it. I kind of have though the final semester should be on her, but if I could get that most expensive semester covered by the Post 911 GI Bill that would be helpful to her, to have less to borrow.

Sorry if my post is all over the place...this just happened this morning, so I'm still wrapping my brain around this. I hope to come back later today or tomorrow with another post that is a bit more detailed and responds to Monkey Mama's post.

Money This Week

May 5th, 2017 at 05:03 pm

Here's the chair I painted. That is not it's final resting spot, but did make for a good picture. I actually have a church pew I need to paint to put on that wall instead of the chair.



The fridge gaskets arrived today. Very easy to install the right side (less than two minutes). The left side took a bit longer because I had to briefly detach the mullion (yep, new word for me too). But including getting the tools and detaching it, I would guess that side took under ten minutes. Now no more mold! I do hope that the tighter seal helps holding the air and moisture in and keeps the seals free of mold.

I've been run down with a cold this week. My husband had it first. He even missed a day of work recovering, which he has never done while I've known him. So a few cold remedies and soups have been purchased to make it a little more tolerable.

My daughter is having a friend over tonight. I would normally make homemade pizza, but I'm ordering out, so that I don't pass on any residual germs to my daughter or her friend. Not exactly a cost I planned on, but there is cash in the restaurant category.

I will be writing a $54 check for the band banquet next week. It's $18 per person for a bbq pork meal. I'm sure the costs include some other things given out to students. I sort of wish these types of things didn't exist. They didn't at our other school and it was perfectly fine without a banquet.

And finally our college daughter arrives home by plane on Saturday. We will need to add fuel the van to make the 3 hour round trip to the airport for pickup. We might be able to get away without picking up food since she arrives mid afternoon. However, she may not get a chance to get lunch, so she may need something. I could probably make a sandwich wrap and take it along in a lunch bag if I'm feeling better to make it.

Saving Energy...and More

May 2nd, 2017 at 09:37 pm

The fridge in this rental home is growing black mold on the gaskets that seal the door to the unit. It was here when we moved in and seems to be an issue in the Southeast. We have attempted to clean. One of those cleaning tries resulted in the gasket getting a tear in it because it was dry rotted. I finally decided I can't keep using the fridge unless these gaskets are replaced. I did my research, including price and how to install. I emailed the landlord and have approval to purchase and do the repair. The new gaskets (there are two because it is a French door unit) will arrive from Sears on Friday. The cost is $109, which I paid for but will deduct from the rent per the landlord. I was thrilled that the landlord responded so quickly. I'm hoping that replacing the gasket may save some more energy costs, but it's hard to know if it was leaking cool air or not.

I got a $14 bill in the mail from our state transit authority for using a toll road in a nearby town (no toll booths on this road) We've been using it for over a year, without being billed. Our guess was because we have out of state plates with a state that doesn't even have toll roads. Maybe there was no reciprocal agreement. But the state has caught on and billed us for trips we made in late March and early April. I have no problem paying the bill now that we actually have one! It is a very nice road. Now I have to decide if I want to keep using it or find another route.

I've decided the money I already saved up for tuition but don't need in full for our daughter's summer class will remain in that budget category. I know that we will owe around $1500 for housing that will not be reimbursed with the Post 911 GI bill. So I'm going to make sure we have that money ahead of time.

On Saturday, I bought a small wooden desk chair at a neighbor's garage sale for $5 on Friday. Today I used two cans of spray paint to spruce it up. It most likely will just be a decor piece, but it will function as a chair if needed. Such a deal to get a new to me chair for under $14.

I redeemed $35 worth of Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards yesterday. They have arrived in my inbox, and I have used $20 worth to buy my husband two new cell phone cases (one is for his work phone). I do like getting some things for free!

Kitchenette and Phone

April 30th, 2017 at 01:38 pm

It looks like my husband will have a kitchenette in his room while he is at training this summer. He is on a post with a commissary also, so it looks like he can eat almost as normal while away. I do expect he will eat out a bit more, just because of the change in routine. We will discuss this more before he leaves. Smile

He is going to be near Washington DC, so it may end up being a chance for the girls and I to fly up there (not a fan of interstate driving) and visit. It will depend on his availability on weekends. I will try to save a bit more in the vacation fund in the meantime.

We are about to buy our youngest daughter a new cell phone. Her phone is almost exactly 3 years old, but is acting up. She has been dealing with issues with it for quite a few months now. We want to her to have a reliable phone while she is in Europe. Although we don't really want her to use it for much more than a camera or to play a game on since the cost would be very expensive. We expect to use What's App to communicate with her for free.

We are currently looking at buying an unlocked Motorola G Plus (5th Gen) for $229. The best price seems to be at Best Buy for a new phone. My Dad is a Team National member so I'm going to see if they have any discounts before I buy it.

4 Months = $25K

April 25th, 2017 at 05:51 pm

On January 4th of this year our retirement accounts topped $400,000 for the first time. As of yesterday, our accounts are valued at $425,768. That is a change of $25K in less than four months. Some of that change is our contributions to retirement, but the S&P 500 is up nearly 7%, so this growth is a factor as well. It sure would be nice to see this continue through the year. I do like to think the next major milestone, of $500K, could be soon!

In other news, I did get $3 from Pinecone. I also received some pending Swagbucks amounting to 1712 for a hotel I booked through the site. I currently have just under 3000 SB to redeem in early May for Amazon gift cards. And it looks like my husband has a couple things sitting in the Amazon cart...so hopefully I can score those for free.

I'm thinking next week my grocery list may be meatless. That may save a bit of money and be healthier as well. I picked up a Forks Over Knives magazine with lots of yummy looking plant based recipes. My daughter is nearly a vegetarian, so finding new things for her to try is a good motivator as well. Or maybe the motivation to be to try to save at least the cost of the magazine (which I never buy) $7.27! Ouch.

$803 Trip Spending

April 24th, 2017 at 05:21 pm

For an eight day trip, we spent $803 on food, fuel, parking, and two nights in a hotel for three people. Our airfare was paid before we left. That was approximately $997 for the three of us.

We were lucky enough to have one free hotel night, as well as free accommodations and several meals with my parents. We also had the use of one of their vehicles as we traveled around two states. We did offer to get a rental car, but they were more than willing to share. We did pay for the gas and got the car washed on the last day we had it.

I entered all our receipts/transactions into YNAB this morning. The only category I needed to revise was the restaurants, but there was more in the vacation category, so I moved some of that there.

After purchasing groceries, my husband getting a haircut, fueling up our vehicles, we have about $94 left until the end of the month.

My husband offered to bring taco shells and meat to their work potluck on Friday. I had volunteered cookies for the band fundraiser this weekend. So that is known spending that will come from the $94.

We will also be looking at getting a new cell phone for our daughter this weekend. I do have $200 set aside, and can pull some other savings if it ends up costing more.

Here's hoping we can make it a low spend week!

Back From Our Trip

April 23rd, 2017 at 03:09 pm

I slept in really late this morning because that spring break trip wiped me out! Lots of walking around campuses.

Our daughter is looking to study engineering, so we are looking at excellent midwest colleges for that field. All three colleges mentioned payment for internships, up to $25 an hour! Some starting the summer after freshman year. Two indicated a possible five year program to include a master's degree at the end. We are letting all the information sink in. She can't apply until August 1, so there is lots of time to talk it all through. Two would be our home of record and would be in state tuition. The other is where our older daughter is and would be out of state tuition.

It feels like we spent a lot of money while we were gone, particularly for meals at restaurants. I do remember funding the vacation, fuel and restaurant categories before we left. I paid a $200 housing deposit for our daughter while we were visiting her. I had the money set aside for that. I also bought her a tank top with the University logo, snacks and a large portfolio for storing her art. I guess I bought a tube to roll a piece of art that is 4 ft x 7 ft, too. Just those few things alone are far more than I spend in a traditional week.

We did get unpacked and have started laundry so we are prepared for the work and school week. We also need to stock our fridge for eating at home, so that means a grocery run later today. I'd really rather just sit on the couch!

A Room Upgrade

April 18th, 2017 at 02:08 am

We are currently traveling. Visiting colleges for our younger daughter. Tonight our hotel, Marriott Residence Inn, was covered by the 'free night' we receive each year after paying the annual fee ($85) for our Marriott Rewards card.

We thought we would arrive and get a King bed with a sofa pull out. Instead we ended up with a two bedroom suite! So nice!! I just wish we were here longer to really enjoy it.

My husband had a glass of wine from the manager's evening reception. In the morning we will all have breakfast. Definitely well worth our $85.

Last night we paid $119, for a Marriott Fairfield Inn room. It was a traditional room. We did get our breakfast included. We also had a hotel stay at another Fairfield Inn just before our flight. We were up so early breakfast wasn't being served yet. We did pay about $90 for that room. We will earn Marriott reward points for both of those paid stays.

We are away about a week, and only have three nights where we have to pay for rooms. The rest of our nights we are staying with family!

Planted Our Mini Garden

April 9th, 2017 at 10:20 pm

I mentioned previously that I was going to plant some vegetables this year. I've always loved fresh vegetables in the summer. After talking to my youngest daughter, she has good memories of picking beans, and tomatoes from our garden. So we are doing it again.

My landlord put in a pretty large mulched bed with two shrubs and a small tree right before we moved in. I was so surprised as the backyard had nothing but grass when we looked at it. I was a bit irritated as I knew the bed would need weeding. But I'm now grateful the area is there, so that I can plant some things without pulling out the grass.

I did have some major weeding to do to prepare the area, but the hoe we own was very helpful in getting them pulled up! There is hardly any mulch left that the landlord put down two years ago. A neighbor is required to put down mulch based on her rental contract. That is something we are not required to do.

I planted snow peas and romaine lettuce from seed. I put the lettuce in grow bags (basically directly into a bag of garden soil, with the bag ripped open on the top). I purchased two tomato plants, a summer squash, a zucchini, and two strawberry plants. The strawberry plants are in a large metal tub. These will go on our screened in porch to keep the birds away from them. They will get plenty of sun. Everything else is planted directly in the garden bed. I made sure to plant items where they will get the most sun (to the south of each tree). I guess the peas are behind one of the trees, but I think they will get enough sun. If they don't work out this spring, I will try another crop in the fall in another spot.

The snow pea seeds were $1.89. Organic romaine lettuce seeds were $2.24. The strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash were $3.40 each. The bags of soil were $1.80 each. I did have to invest in two tomato cages for $8.60. My total investment was $36.73 plus tax ($39.30). If I can end up with produce worth more than $40 this summer I will be ahead financially. That will make the effort well worth it!

I know some of you are big gardeners. Anyone else planting anything edibles this year?

Friday Night Entertainment Spending

April 8th, 2017 at 03:00 pm

We rarely go out on the town for entertainment, but we became aware last fall that a play based on a book was going to be performed this spring. Specifically, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. My daughter has read nearly all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I had considered it as a Christmas gift, but she had some other wants at the time. And in the end tickets weren't available until two weeks ago. For three of us to attend the live play we paid $55.65. Yes, this is more than a movie, but honestly, much more enjoyable to be witness to the skill that is live acting! There were only five actors, but three of them played multiple characters, so lots of costume changes...which made for some hilarious moments. There weren't any mishaps because of the costumes, but just so fun to see the actors and actresses act out different characters.

We planned to go out to dinner ahead of time. I feel our budget lucked out when my daughter picked Subway and my husband was agreeable. He usually likes to sit down and be served which I know always costs far more. I skipped the drink and chips, and they counted two of our six inch subs as a footlong, our bill came to $18.68 for the three of us.

There was an intermission. We ended up buying two bottles of water for $2 each, and leaving a $1 tip. Another five dollars spent. We were parched as it was a bit warm in the theatre.

I feel really good about our spending for this evening of entertainment. Looking back we could have easily eaten dinner at home, but sometimes just getting out of the house and enjoying a night out is worth it.

Did you have any Friday night entertainment expenses? When was the last time you saw a live play or other live entertainment?

Amazon Gift Cards from Swagbucks

April 6th, 2017 at 05:20 pm

I earned enough Swagbucks in March to redeem them for $50 worth of Amazon.com gift cards. And I already used them! My purchases should arrive today. I only spent $0.97 out of pocket. I bought two different vitamins for about $25. I added on some tea for $4. And finally, I bought a set of five reusable menstrual pads for $20. I had thought about making my own, but decided I would probably have more follow through and success in the end if I bought something that had good reviews. And with Swagbucks those ended up costing me virtually nothing out of pocket.

It's kind of nice to get things I want and need to buy anyway and have the gift cards to cover them. I really should move the money to savings that I would have spent. Actually I will do that now. I will take money out of the categories these expenses come from and move it to a savings category. Okay, you can't tell that I paused to do that, but I created a BIG goal category in our budget on YNAB. I just put $50.97 in there. I also flagged the other BIG goal contributions so I can find them later. I'll update you on that amount soon.

I do go back and forth about whether the time spent on Swagbucks is worth it. I have taken breaks before and I don't regret them. But I guess for now I'm back on a roll with them. It's motivating when I see that I can buy $50 worth of stuff without any money out of pocket. I can then save that money. Or if we were still paying debt, I could put that money I would have spent without the gift cards towards debt.

If you want to try it out and you haven't joined, I'd be honored if you used my referral link. It can be a little confusing at first. Take a look at YouTube videos that will give guidance about earning as well as ask around on the Swagbucks Facebook page.

Check Arrived & More

April 5th, 2017 at 09:02 pm

The $250 check from the moving company's insurance, for major damage to our entertainment center, arrived in the mail today. That money is going to the BIG goal. I was starting to wonder about it a bit, but I think it has been only two weeks since we accepted the offer.

My daughter is giving up a brand new pair of shoes that were given to her to do an art project with. She has had over four years to actually do it, and finally decided to abandon the idea all together. So those are going to be listed on eBay. I'll probably use proceeds towards textbooks she needs this summer.

I purchased a one way ticket back home for our college daughter. Just a month away at this point. It was $183.45. I had the cash set aside. Yea!

Second Laundry Post for the Day

April 4th, 2017 at 10:39 pm

I mentioned in my post earlier today, that I have the hang of drying sheets hanging up in various places in our home. Sheets dry pretty fast, too.

Today, I needed to do a load of laundry. I decided I needed to bite the bullet and spend money on a laundry drying rack. I started the washer and went on my way to purchase one. I found a wood one at Walmart for just under $18 (although online it says $15 and I forgot I wanted to question it at the register). I did have to put it together, but it wasn't too hard, may have been harder if I had seen the instructions before I put it together! They seemed confusing. My laundry was washed at this point, so I went about hanging up some pants, shorts, under garments, socks and hand towels. I hung the shirts up on hangers and have those hanging in our bathroom. I expect that these will be mostly dry before we go to bed. I will fold them at that time.

And if I didn't point out this in another post about saving money on electricity, I'm considering the cost of the wood drying rack an investment that should pay big returns in lower electricity bills Specifically, I saved two loads of laundry from the dryer today, and the cost associated with running it. Yea!

More Money Coming!

March 28th, 2017 at 12:12 am

My husband told me today that we will be getting about $105 from his recent travel reimbursement. This was the trip where he bought some friends dinner to the tune of $140. That meal isn't specifically being reimbursed, of course, but it will offset that expense a bit. I didn't think he was getting anything extra.

Our college daughter was home for spring break last week, so we did a little clothes shopping, went out to eat a couple times, and celebrated her birthday with cake from a bakery. And now the funds left that we budgeted through the end of the month are getting slim.

I did jump ahead in the budget a bit and bought tickets for my husband, daughter and I to see a local Sherlock Holmes play in early April. Those three tickets were $55 total. And we will be seeing Beauty and the Beast in the theater this coming weekend. This much more than we usually spend on entertainment in a short period of time. But thankful that we can afford to do so when we find something that is of interest for all of us.

I listed four CDs on eBay today in a lot. Not sure if they will sell or not. I think I may have listed them for sale in the past, but I don't have a record of it on my account any longer. So if I did it was more than two months ago. I figured I would try one more time. Smile

I've been doing pretty good at accumulating Swagbucks, but I'm going to need to spend my time getting my garden planted soon. I'm going to do zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, snow peas, onions, cucumber and strawberries. I'm going to do the strawberries in a pot on our screened in porch to keep the birds away! I'm not real optimistic about them, but my younger daughter insists since she didn't like them when she was younger and didn't get to eat any!

Oh, I thought I'd ask those of you world travelers what you think about exchanging currency before a trip? How much of the total expected costs would you want to have in the foreign currency? 20%? 50%? The teacher leading the trip can exchange for a lower fee at her bank. We know some cash is likely a good idea. She would need pounds for the two days in London, and euros for the remaining ten or eleven days. She also has a no foreign transaction fee debit card that she will likely use as well. I think we may also add her as an authorized user on one of our credit cards, as an extra back up option.

Reusable Feminine Hygiene

March 20th, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Hopefully, the title gives you a heads up what this post is about and if you aren't interested you have moved on!

I redeemed Swagbucks earlier this month for an Amazon gift card and I made that free money count by ordering a Vida Cup (a menstrual cup). It's reusable thus saving me from buying tampons each month. Mine was priced at $12.77 plus tax and free Prime shipping. Again, it was free to me since I used an earned gift card.

I think I spend about $5 a month on tampons. I also buy pantyliners in large quantity one or twice a year. I can't remember how much those are. I will estimate I spend between $65-75 a year. Not a lot, but that does add up over the many years women are menstruating.

I have used a menstrual cup in the past for many years, but something changed physically for awhile that made me abandon it a few years ago and I eventually tossed it out.

I decided to try it again knowing the more one can use reusable items rather than disposable items, the more one can save! There are other health reasons why a menstrual cup can be better than tampons. I will let you do your own research on why that is.

My next step is to make some homemade (and reusable) cotton pads. I haven't decided on which way I will make them yet. I'm still doing my research online. If I find a video or instructions that I do end up using I will try to remember to link it up here. The menstrual cup works so well, I don't expect to need very many each month.

I'm not going to go into the details of how these are used particularly because this is a financial site. However, there are many reviews on YouTube as well as forums where people discuss the details, which are very helpful to first time users. Just do a online search to get more information.

So, anyone else here want to share if they use a menstrual cup or not? Anyone think they might try one?

Chase Southwest Credit Card Offer

March 17th, 2017 at 08:21 pm

Chase is offering 50,000 points on their Southwest Rapids Rewards credit cards after spending $2,000 in the first three months. There is a $99 annual fee. Depending on the trip, you might be able to score two roundtrip tickets. Or you could redeem points for about $500 in gift cards (do this before you would close the card!)

We love Southwest for their prices, free checked bags, and open seating options. Customer service is great too! Just today in the mail I received four drink coupons for being a cardmember for two years. That's kind of nice perk, not that we would usually buy liquor on a plane trip.

If you are able to pay off your credit card charges in full each month and are interested in the Southwest card, I would be honored if you used my referral link. I will receive 5000 points.

Our smoke alarms started going off this morning. Luckily no fire and my cat and I were the only ones home. The smoke detectors are hard wired in the house, but do have battery backup. We replaced the batteries less than a year ago. I'm surprised they were going off already. It's possible there was another reason. But at any rate, I bought six new 9 volt batteries that we will install this evening. The batteries cost $18.94 plus tax. Why are 9 volts so expensive? Of course, safety for less than $20 is well worth it. And I sure don't want to be woken up by the alarms unless there is a real fire!

Lowering Electricity Costs

March 14th, 2017 at 06:49 pm

Our electricity bill arrived today in my inbox (do people still get these in the mail?). I'm glad to say it is down again from the month prior to $164.92.

In fact compared to last March it is down as well. That $300+ bill two months ago brought home the fact that we could do better when it comes to our electricity use.

I'm going to guess most of the electricity is from heating (except for a gas fireplace, the home is all electric). We are in another cold snap, so we'll see what the next bill looks like!

I've made an effort to make sure we are skipping the water heating for washing clothes. I also unplugged my daughter's Wii U and shut down my husband's computer. The computer was probably drawing some power since it's battery doesn't really hold a charge very well and DH generally just puts it to sleep rather than full shut down mode.

My next step is to start experimenting with drying our clothes without the dryer. I will probably use it for 5 minutes for each load to give the clothes a head start on drying. We already do hang some graphic T shirts (since the designs fade and crack in the dryer) and fleece items (since they dry fast). I figure this will be quite helpful in keeping electricity costs down, while also keeping more heat out of our home this summer.

My first plan is to avoid buying anything, but I may need to buy a drying rack. I cannot put up a clothes line per our neighborhood covenants (sometimes these rules irritate me!).

I might also look into a water heater blanket, but possibly not until fall as it will be hot here very soon. Our water heater is in our unheated garage so I can imagine that is not very efficient.

Do you use your dryer? What do you do to conserve electricity?

Need a New Headlight

March 11th, 2017 at 04:36 pm

We noticed last night that we need a new headlight for my van. My husband just replaced both on his truck earlier this month. We will replace both at the same time, as we have learned they tend to wear out around the same time. I'm not sure we have ever replaced them on this van, which is 10 years old. But that seems a bit long, so I'm probably not remembering.

That will likely cost us $50 together. I guess if they really last ten years then that is a very good price.

Edited to Update: Found a pair of headlights on Amazon that were about $30 with tax (mine are different then our truck). I had about $2.33 in Amazon gift cards and will be able to claim $25 in American Express rewards, so that our out of pocket cost will be just $2.88!

Things have seemed spendy this month. I'm looking forward to payday on Wednesday!

Picking Up the Tab

March 9th, 2017 at 02:10 am

I went shopping today to use some coupons. I had $10 off a $10 purchase at JC Penney. I found a new sports bra and a tank top and paid $1.13 since both items were on clearance. I also looked at Kohl's as I had a $5 coupon, but the truth is I didn't see anything I wanted.

Our Time Warner Cable bill arrived today. It due in about two weeks. I noticed that the prices went up! It's only $3.06, but that is another $36.72 a year. I've been contemplating getting rid of our basic television plan which cost us $34 plus taxes each month. I'm not sure if our internet would then go up too. That could save us $408 a year.

My husband is out of town at a training event and was lucky enough to meet up with some great co workers from his last unit. They are all in different states now! While not obligated, as the highest ranking person, he felt like paying the tab. I don't know the full amount yet, but the credit card is showing a pending payment of $115. There were five people and I saw beer in the picture he sent me. Smile My husband has had meals paid for him many times in the past, so I know it is the right thing to do.

Debt Free Charts & More

March 6th, 2017 at 11:34 pm

I came across a blog that offers free countdown type charts. There are numerous different ones. The charts look a big like a picture in some cases, say if you were saving up for a house. Smile The debt free chart is the words DEBT FREE. You fill the words from bottom to top, kind of like those thermometer charts when an organization is saving for something. Not sure if I'm explaining well at all. Check them out here. There are a couple YouTube videos on the page where you can see someone explain how they are using them.

No money spent by me today. My husband had breakfast and lunch provided for him at his training. Dinner was also provided but he was full from lunch and going to skip it. But in the same conversation he said he was going to buy some snacks. So not sure what the actual spending is.

I made a yummy rice dish with mushrooms. My daughter loved it. Very easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of you already make something like this. I will definitely make it again.

Today I washed the blanket our cat Riley had spent so much time on in the days before her death. I hadn't washed it yet, as our older cat, Liberty, seemed to be enjoying it since then. But it is now closer to spring and it was time to get it washed. It was kind of sad to pull the lint trap out and see if full of her fur. Frown I still so grateful for the time that she was a part of our family.

In other news, I have accumulated 1354 Swagbucks. Closer to my $15 Amazon gift card goal. But then I have found another item I may want to buy and that puts my total closer to $20. I may hold off though on that one, as it isn't a true need.

Spring Break Spending

March 2nd, 2017 at 12:29 pm

We have two spring breaks as our girl's schools are on different schedules. The first one is for my our college daughter later in March. She's lucky enough to come home and celebrate her birthday. The main spending is her airline ticket home, which was kind of pricy, but I expect that may be because I was a little late getting it purchased, and it is spring break in so many places!
My husband is taking the week off, so we hope to do some fun things while she is home.

The other spring break in April will have us traveling back to our home states to visit colleges for our younger daughter. She will be a senior next year, so it is time to start exploring options and interests. Our airline tickets for all three of us on Southwest were $997. This was a much better deal than the single ticket mentioned above. We will stay with my parents most of the nights, but will get a hotel for two nights when we are in another state. I believe we can use Marriott points. I will look into that option later today.

Our travel expenses sure have increased since we moved so far away from family! I am thankful that we are not bogged down with debt payments that would make it so much harder to make these trips happen.

Decluttering Means eBay Listings

February 19th, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I've been decluttering lately at our home. If you stopped by, you might think I barely have anything compared to the average American, but yet there is still stuff we don't use. I have been showing a bag of decluttering on my blog Your Organized Friend for the last week and there is more to come.

The decluttering has produced several items worth trying to sell. I'm not sure that they all will sell, but if I could get some money for most of them I would be happy. I have three items in the $40-30 range, and two items listed in the $8-10 range. I have one more item I'm washing first and hope to list it later tonight for at least $40.

I also came upon a few movies that might be worth listing, but I will need to find appropriate packaging for them first.

In other news, we had my van in for repair late last week. I had a situation where I went to pick up my daughter from school and went to start the van again and it wouldn't turn over at all. I was able to start it an hour later without a jump start. The repair shop eventually recreated the issue. It was the alternator that was bad, which then caused the battery to go out prematurely. We did get a free replacement battery as it was still under warranty. With military discounts an alternator with a three year warranty and labor cost us $530. We do have the cash to pay it for which I am thankful. I also feel much better knowing that I won't have a problem starting my van again in the future!

Returning Shirts & More

February 13th, 2017 at 07:24 pm

My husband decided that two of the workout shirts, Nike brand, are too wide in the neck area. He wants them returned. They were each $18.75. With tax, that will net us $40.13 back in our budget. I will probably look for different shirts, preferably ones that cost half as much!

We bought a small bouquet of roses at the commissary yesterday when we were shopping for groceries. Those cost just $5.75! We also found valentine cards here at home for our girls. I'm sure my husband will still buy one for me.

We also bought five boxes of girl scout cookies. Those cost $20, but should fulfill our girl scout cookie needs for the season. I am sending one box to my daughter as a surprise.

I'm going to be doing a declutter series at [/url=http://yourorganizedfriend.blogspot.com/]Your Organized Friend[/url]. I'm decluttering one bag at a time. If you need some inspiration, stop on over!

Spending Yesterday

February 12th, 2017 at 02:36 pm

Yesterday, we did a bit of needed spending. My daughter needed a new purse as her old one had a broken zipper. I had a $10 coupon at JC Penney and the purse (leather) was on sale for $33. A very good deal. Unfortunately, my husband didn't do the best with his shopping. He picked up three workout T shirts, Nike Brand, that he told me were $11 each. One rang up as $21, and the other two for $18.75 each. He did get long sleeve shirt on clearance for $8.99. He went backed and looked at the display and didn't read it right. Ugh! I'm letting him keep them as it just isn't worth the effort to fight him on it. He is not a good shopper, luckily he doesn't shop for new things too often.

I bought a 10 pack of no show socks for $11.99 at Kohl's. I had a $6 coupon (for my 6 year anniversary with my Kohl's card) so I paid just over $6 out of pocket. Now that is my kind of deal!

We shopped at Fresh Market for some ingredients to make two meals. This one was yummy! I have a ton of leftovers, too. The cost of the food, including some snacks, was nearly $39. We also bought some other vitamins, so the bill was $65 exactly.

Today we go do our regular grocery shopping trip at the commissary. I think I may buy some Girl Scout cookies, if there is a troop selling there today. Otherwise, we are staying home and will enjoy some time outside. It's going to be 82 degrees here! Spring really is coming. I'm already seeing buds on trees, and some trees already put out pink blooms! I'm sharing for those of you up north. It really is just around the corner. Hang in there!

Oh, and I heard my husband mention picking up flowers and Valentine's cards for my daughter and I. Last year, I convinced him not too. I'm not sure what to say this year. It's hard to squash someone's nice intentions!

And finally, did you look at your retirement accounts? Probably at an all time high once again. It is nice to see!

What I Don't Buy

February 10th, 2017 at 04:07 pm

I like to revisit this topic once in awhile for new readers (and us oldies, too). Down below is a list of things many people buy that I don't as a more frugal spender. Now, of course, the list is not all inclusive as it is hard to remember things I don't buy since I don't think about them at all. I was inspired to write this post after watching a lot of decluttering videos on YouTube. It was interesting to see what people had purchased that they were decluttering. Many items were things I don't even own, or now no longer own as I don't buy them.

Scented candles
I noticed that a lot of people buy these in multiples and then never use them fully. If I buy a candle I use it all up before I would buy another.

Nail Polish
I own two bottles of nail polish. Both are almost gone, but I've been using these on my toes in the summer for quite a few years.

Make-up
I have basic foundation, one lipstick, one palette of eye shadow, one eye liner, and powder. That is it! Very simple when I use makeup which is probably less than ten times a year. I read about what is in makeup and decided I didn't like putting it on my face everyday!

Magazines
I have had a few subscriptions in the past, but over time realized I wasn't getting any satisfaction reading them. Saves me time and money.

Books
I use the library!

Jewelry
I'm simple. I own one pair of earnings, a pearl necklace, and probably four rings, although I only wear my wedding ring daily.

Newspapers
Got of of the subscription habit of newspapers when we moved the last time.

Scented Lotions
Same reason I don't wear makeup, too many chemicals. I'm lucky that I don't have very dry skin. I do have some chemical free lotions, but I take forever to use them!

Valentine/St Patrick's Day/Easter/July 4th/Thanksgiving decor
I've come to see these items put out in stores as just a way to part me from our hard earned money. I only decorate for Christmas and rarely buy new items.

Appliances and kitchen tools for only one purpose
My waffle maker, coffee maker, toaster are exceptions. However, have you noticed all the new gadgets for kitchens that come out when a simple tool, like a knife, could do the same thing!

Multiples of anything (such as excess sheets, blankets, towels, scissors, pens) particularly those that don't get used up quickly.
We have one set of sheets per bed. We have two towels per person, plus a set for guests. We buy what we need, nothing more.

Stickers
This was one I saw many people decluttering. This is one that people probably accumulate because they are inexpensive or cute, but then they don't use them up!

Containers
I avoid buying baskets and bins. I have some obviously, but I'm not of the mindset that I have to go buy a container to be organized. I've let go of so much in the last few years, that I have bins I could probably let go of!

Phone cases and Purses
Why buy more than one, when one will do? I have a simple black purse that goes with everything. And if it doesn't? Who cares!

The newest electronics
I still have an iPod Nano from 2006!

Collectibles and knick knacks
I don't collect anything. I don't get the satisfaction at all from this kind of accumulation. And it costs so much money. And I dislike dusting around these kinds of things!!

Clothes
I do buy them, but very rarely. I purchased one new shirt during the fall/winter time period. I wear things until they are clearly out of style or have worn out. I only buy what I need. I own two pairs of jeans for example.

Pajamas
I simple wear a T shirt and workout type pants to bed. I don't need specific clothes for sleeping in.

Lingerie
I stick to the basics with bra and underwear. And I only own three bras.

Movies
These are expensive too and add up! We love movies, so we do watch some of them over again. However, we only buy two to three per year...not every new release.

Alcohol when I eat out
I'm usually the driver as my husband does get alcohol at restaurants. I can't stand the expense!

Disposable products
I avoid paper plates, cups, silverware, wipes, dryer sheets, napkins, Keurig cups. We use paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, Swiffer cloths (have used flannel well in the past), coffee filters. I reuse plastic bags (unless they had a meat product in them) and my daughter has reusable sandwich bags for her lunch.

Gift bags
We been given more gifts in bags and have accumulated plenty to use for the future. I've also been know to wrap a gift in simple color tissue paper, as it is not too costly.

Greeting cards
I do send some, but I send fewer and fewer every year. The cost adds up as does the cost of stamps. I also then spend less time shopping and running out for a card.

Stamps to pay a bill
I now use Bill Pay with my bank to send checks, including our rent check. Most other bills are paid directly with the provider, usually by credit card.

Subscription boxes
I can't even think of the name of some of these subscriptions, but they are like Fruit of the Month club for makeup and organic products.

Traditional Phone Line
We use Ooma to save money. We may opt out entirely at some point in the near future.

Excessive Data Plans
I know compared to some of you we spend more on our cell phones as we use Verizon. The four of us share 3GB of data. My neighbor mentioned that three of them in her family share 10GB of data! I wonder if they have tried to conserve at all?

Excessive Cable Channels
We only have basic to have any signal at all. I did like when we had an over the air antenna at our last house. The cost was just the initial investment. I wonder if we need it at all. We rarely watch any tv.

High end brand name clothing
Do people not realize they are paying for the brand name? I know some brands are worth the investment as the quality is good, but most are just fashion statements...declaring to the world that you overpaid for your clothes!

Gym membership
We have a treadmill and a few basic weights and bands. In the past we did have a membership and did use the gym!

Extended warranties
We nearly always turn these down. They simply add to the cost of what you are buying. It would be better to save the money and set aside if the item ever needs repair. So many things don't break! We did have a warranty on one computer and the screen broke, that warranty did pay for that. Years later something similar happened with a broken screen and I bought a new screen and installed it myself for under $50.

Trendy shoes
I may have already mentioned I don't follow many fashion trends. I try to stick with basic or classic looks. I also don't have a need for lots of shoes.

Cookbooks (remember no books!)
I only own one cookbook. I find all other recipes online for free.

Vacation souvenirs
I limit these. I find pictures of family on vacation are the best souvenir.

New school supplies every year
We reuse markers, backpacks, rulers, pens, calculators, lunch boxes. We restock the items that get used up or worn out like binders and paper.

Coffee Mugs
I have a set of eight and I don't see a need for ones that have other graphics or new designs. Just let go of two snowman ones that my daughters used to drink hot chocolate out of.

Stationary
I think thank you notes are nice to send. And I'm not against writing real letters. But the truth is, I tend to email or call someone. I was seeing hoards of journals, notepads, sticky notes that some of these people were getting rid of. We still have more than we need in our home that the girls accumulated when they were younger.

Organizers
I only buy an organizer if it solves a very specific problem that cannot be solved in another way. In fact, at the moment I can't think of any specific organizers that would qualify that reside in my home. I mainly have bins, large and small. Some baskets. But my first instinct is not to buy new containers.

Bleach and other toxic cleaners
Air fresheners (plug ins and sprays)
Most of these items are just too strong to use in our home. And they are not safe to breath in.

Specialty trays and serving platters
Holiday kitchen linens
My basic placements work year round in our home. I don't buy aprons for each season, napkins for each holiday or even serving pieces when our basic china will do.

I suppose I really could go on and on with what I don't buy. I just thought of craft items. I do sew, but I only buy fabric for specific projects and if I have leftover, I use it for other smaller projects.

What things do you avoid buying? Think of all the money we save and time acquiring those things. I'm overwhelmed thinking about if I had to start buying the things I listed!

Fourth Semester Tuition & Housing Paid in Full

February 9th, 2017 at 08:07 pm

I just made the electronic payment from our checking account for the full spring tuition and housing bill. I admit it was a little hard to click the submit button!

The full amount was $10,426.56. Of that amount, $4,662.65 was for spring room and board. That includes a discount ($353) for being a second year student. Books and supplies were $267. The rest was tuition for classes after her scholarships. She is taking 17 credits this semester, so that bumps up a bill pretty fast compared to a 12 credit hour semester.

I've been really focused on getting this bill paid. I do need to consider how much two online classes this summer might cost and figure how we might pay for those. I think those classes may be the last ones we would pay in full out of pocket before we start using the Post 911/GI Bill.

I do feel blessed that we are able to provide a college education for our daughter. And to do it without loans thus far is a bonus. I know she is grateful as well.

Interest, Tuition Funding & More

February 1st, 2017 at 01:51 pm

We earned $79.08 in interest during the month of January. I hope to see that bump up a little now that more ($15K) of our money is invested at 2%.

I withdrew $4,750 from our daughter's Educational Savings account. That money will be used to cover most of her housing costs for the semester. She has $4839 left in her account. This is in a interest bearing account, so she is earning a little money on it each month.

Since it is officially payday today, I can say that I initially allocated $814 towards tuition. But I also didn't fund all of our usual everyday spending categories in YNAB specifically clothing and entertainment. That means I have another $100 to add to the tuition pot, and finally I decided that the electric bill (that really big one of $315) can actually be paid on our next paycheck on February 15. With those funds, funds saved from last few paychecks, the money from the ESA, and our tax refund, I am now only short $205.31!!

But as I'm writing this I'm also realizing that the books I bought my daughter for school have been allocated to that tuition category in YNAB. They were charged to my American Express card which I currently have 0% interest offer on. Therefore, I don't need to pay that off this pay period. That gives us another $153. Now I'm only short $48!!

I did realize that with my husband's travel reimbursement we might make a little money. It depends on how much he spends on food over what the per diem is. I think he will submit his request for reimbursement on Friday, and it should get paid within a week, maybe in time to pay the tuition bill! This would be a little less out of our savings that we would need to pay back.

I'm feeling much better about this huge tuition bill! I think I can likely shave $48 off our spending with some careful planning over the next 10 days.

I took our younger daughter back to Walmart yesterday to get more school supplies. ANOTHER binder, a 3 subject notebook, and dividers were required. We also bought a 4 pack of AAA batteries and a package of glue sticks to donate to two teachers. That was another $22. Why are office supplies so expensive? The 3 subject notebook was $4.24! The teacher did say they could use three regular notebooks, but my daughter did prefer the combined version for the easy of carrying around. I'm not going to make her sacrifice for a couple dollars.


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